Harrogate Borough Council’s leader has said he is disappointed at the government’s decision to create a single super council for North Yorkshire and claimed the county council had “let the borough down”.
Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick MP revealed that the chosen option was for the new single council structure proposed by North Yorkshire County Council over a rival bid for two authorities split on a east/west basis.
Under the plans York City Council will also remain as a unitary council.
Mr Jenrick rejected the district councils’ model, which would have seen the county split into east and west with two unitary councils.
The move means Harrogate Borough Council, North Yorkshire County Council and the remaining district authorities will no longer exist.
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Cllr Richard Cooper, Conservative leader of the borough council, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that the government’s decision “flies in the face” of its own criteria.
“Naturally, I am disappointed at this decision and I will be interested in due course to read the government’s reasoning.
“I have always been in favour of unitary government. It is less confusing for residents who will only have one council to go to for all services and it avoids the expense of duplication.
“My argument has always been that any unitary for our area needs to be of the right size and structure to deliver efficient and responsive services to residents.
“The county council deliver some services exceptionally – children’s services and adult social care to name two. In other areas they let our borough down.
“My job now as the leader of Harrogate Borough Council is to explore how the new unitary authority, based on the county structure, can improve these shortcomings.”
Cllr Pat Marsh, leader of the Liberal Democrats on Harrogate Borough Council and initially supported the east/west model, also said:
“It was not our choice to go down this line and we did not support either of the two proposals but, if pushed, our preferred option would have been a north/south split.
“Of the options that were actually on the table, the single council does make the most sense.
“We will fight to get parishes the power and control they want and we have already started the process of assuring that Harrogate town becomes parished.
“We don’t want the local voice lost in a large anonymous organisation.”
Meanwhile, Scarborough Borough Council’s leader has described the announcement as “not a good day for democracy”.
Cllr Steve Siddons, Labour leader of the authority, said he felt the decision from the Government to create the 600,000 plus population unitary authority in North Yorkshire was a “dog’s breakfast”.
“I am extremely disappointed with this announcement.
“The government appears to have ignored their own criteria and advice and have approved a single countywide unitary that is bigger than any other in the country and far bigger than their recommended maximum size.
“It also leaves York as a unitary much smaller than the government’s minimum size recommendation.
“My prediction is that York will inevitably be swallowed up by this mega county. A dog’s breakfast springs to mind.
“My concern now is that the residents of our borough and the staff of our council get a fair deal moving forward and the promises made by the county council in their proposal, prove better and more effective than some of their services in the past.
“Having a council that is two hours drive from where we live is not my idea of a recipe for good local governance.
“The east/west model, which I supported and has been rejected, met all the criteria set by the government so I can only assume something else was at play when the decision was made.
“I fear this is not a good day for democracy but I hope I am proved wrong.”
Meanwhile, Unison North Yorkshire said it would now work to protect jobs, level up pay and conditions and minimise disruption for its members in the transition to the new council.
“We will be working with all our councils across North Yorkshire to make sure the transition to one council is as smooth as possible.”
The plans are now subject to Parliamentary approval later in the year.